I don’t think you have to be a “new media expert” or a journalism scholar to realize that:
1.) The news business is in the toilet.
2.) The journalism profession as we know it is going the way of the dodo.
3.) It’s kind of the fault of the Internet.
Anyone reading this blog certainly doesn’t need a primer on the state of the news industry. It’s probably been a big chunk of your daily discourse for the past 2 -3 years. But the past year or so has been particularly brutal for the news business, and as I see many laid-off journalists look to online news outlets like Huffington Post as a possible model for the profession, I cringe.
Because all I see is a big black hole.
There’s no money in online writing. You don’t have to be a new media expert to figure that out either, but at the same time, there are too many underemployed journalists and media professionals write for online news startups for paltry micropayments, or even worse, just for potential web traffic. It’s depressing.
Now I don’t mean to single out HuffPo, that website is certainly not the sole offender when it comes to paying with pageviews. I don’t even think it’s the fault of the internet. I think it’s us, the scores of writers (myself included) who have devalued our own work over the years by doing professional-level work for free — or for far too little.
We write for exposure. We write for practice. We write for press passes. We write for beer/diaper/vacation money. We write for lulz. But we don’t write to support ourselves. And we end up screwing ourselves everytime.
I know this for a fact because it was a good chunk of my 20’s. And also because I still do it. I have a day gig that I love and that supports me, so I can afford to freelance/blog for beer money, but that’s not enough for the unemployed journalists who are now attempting to make a living as freelancers or find full-time staff work. So what can we do? I don’t have any easy answers, but I am a big fan of starting one’s own damn blog. Stop trying to get HuffPo’s attention and set up a Google Adwords account for your own blog instead. Start a coop with other like minded bloggers that focus on similar topics. If “we are all freelancers now”, as Gawker likes to point out, then maybe we should take advantage of that and exploit it, by spearheading a new age of entrepreneurial spirit in media.
Now this is a good idea in theory, borne of naivety, zeal and a couple of glasses of Dornfelder. I understand that it’s hard to make money from blogging on one’s own, and that people need to eat. But honestly, while we are all still waiting for old media to come up with the wonderful new media model that will save journalism, maybe in the meantime we could work on being that model, on our own.